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“Letting Go” for Mental Wellbeing

“Letting go” for mental wellbeing

“Letting Go” for Mental Wellbeing

How is it possible for two words to evoke an air of simplicity yet in reality be so challenging to action?

The practice of “letting go” involves mentally releasing attachment to something. Attachment can be to an idea, a feeling, a person, a place, or a thing. Attachment brings many self-preserving benefits like comfort, familiarity, routine, stability, trust, achievement and focus to name a few. Examples of where attachment may appear include:

  • Personal artifacts like with a home, family photographs, awards, spiritual items
  • Relationships like with friends, coworkers, family members, significant others
  • Goals like becoming a doctor, completing a marathon, graduating from high school

Why is letting go is so challenging?

The uncertain future that comes with all that is new is what can cause challenge for many. What can also cause challenge is giving in to the vulnerability that results from allowing established and familiar routines, habits, and relationships to be replaced by whatever might be new.

Let’s consider this idea through the following examples:

  • A habit that is not serving you well : Habits are unconsciously comfortable, so they qualify as an attachment. Letting go of a habit that is not serving you well can be challenging to let go.
  • A relationship that is no longer supportive : Both the relationship itself and the idea that it is no longer supportive are two attachments that could be challenging to let go.
  • A dream for the future : Those who have dreams and set goals to achieve them, tend to wrap energy, excitement, focus, money, to name a few, into the possibility of fulfilling that achievement. There is attachment in that dream. A natural disaster could change the trajectory of that dream. Letting go of one’s original plan could be challenging to let go.

If so challenging, why bother learning the practice of letting go?

As challenging as the practice of letting go might be, there are benefits to be derived for your mental wellbeing, in addition to creating mental capacity, letting go can:

  • Shift you into the present so that you can notice the goodness around you like people who care.
  • Offer the chance for inner calm or peace which can reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Increase your sense of empowerment, clarity, and confidence.

Ready to practice?

Letting go is a skill that can be learned and developed. With an investment of conscious effort over time, it is possible to increase your comfort with the uncomfortableness of letting go. Below are tips to support your practice:

  • Use a step-by-step approach:
    1. Decide when to let go : There is no prescribed timeline for being ready to let go of an idea, a feeling, a person, a place, or a thing. Be patient. You will know when the time is right.
    2. Once ready, name what’s preventing you from letting go : Are you afraid? Unsure of what’s next? Taking this step offers a way to make your practice more concrete therefore actionable.
    3. Create a plan : Set a new time-bound goal and define specific, measurable, and realistic actions to attain it.
  • Journaling: Putting emotions i.e., sadness, frustration, confusion, anger into words can offer a way to work through difficult emotions.
  • Meditation: Another way to work with thoughts and develop greater capacity for acceptance is with mindfulness meditation.

When we “let go” of what we are attached to, we create mental capacity for something new – new ideas, feelings, people, places, and things. Remember that letting go is not about ignoring or not caring, rather choosing to acknowledge thoughts and feelings, and then releasing.

The practice of letting go is normally, hard work. Tchiki Davis MA, PhD offers this reassurance “it’s human nature to fight for things that matter to us.” Attachment is driven by the “matters to us” part of this statement. Think of what matters to you and how deeply it may be rooted in who you are and how you approach daily interactions and your work. Now, imagine yourself trying to let go of what matters. With practice, letting go is possible. Cherish the personal benefits gained and use the benefits as motivation to keep practicing for the good of your mental wellbeing.


– Letting Go: How to Put the Past, Fear and Anger Behind You, Tchiki Davis MA, PhD, Berkeley Well-Being Institute.

– Mental Health Matters: The benefits of letting go and what it really means, Flor Mireles, July 21 2020

– How to Let Go & Why It’s So Important for Wellbeing, Anna Katharina Schaffner, PhD, March 13 2024,